Cold War

COLD WAR 寒戰 (Hong Kong, 2012)
New York Premiere
102 minutes, DCP, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Longman Leung, Sunny Luk
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Kar-fai, Charlie Young, Chin Kar-lok, Andy Lau

Winner of nine Hong Kong Film Awards, including “Best Film,” Best Director,” “Best Screenplay,” “Best Actor,” and “Best New Performer,” COLD WAR is Hong Kong’s 2012 box office sensation. It handily beat Skyfall and The Hobbit to become the top grossing movie at the local box office, and it’s easy to see why. Since Infernal Affairs in 2002, Hong Kong has excelled at this kind of densely plotted police thriller full of double agents and Machiavellian power plays, but we can say with confidence that this is the first time one of them has been based on the 2008 US Presidential election.

While the police commissioner is in Copenhagen delivery a talk on “Hong Kong, the safest city in Asia,” a bomb goes off outside a Mongkok movie theater and simultaneously a police van on patrol goes missing along with its five officers. Soon the hostage demands are arriving and the police department goes into lockdown. At the helm of the force are two deputy commissioners who can’t stand each other. One is MB Lee (Tony Leung Kar-fai) an old lion, battle-hardened, who fought his way up through the ranks and isn’t above a little waterboarding to protect Hong Kong. Opposing him is Sean Lau (Cantopop mega-star Aaron Kwok), a steely technocrat and policy wonk who never walked a beat and who’s a stickler for respecting the rights of citizens, the Barack Obama to Tony Leung’s John McCain.

When it’s revealed that MB Lee’s son is one of the abducted patrolmen, things start to heat up and Lee starts sending troops into Iraq, I mean, cops into warehouses, while Lau tries to figure out how to stop him using bureaucratic judo. You couldn’t find a better depiction of the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain than you do here: straightforward military force, versus legalistic subterfuge. As office politics become a blood sport where a well-timed phone call is worse than a dagger in the back, this movie becomes a commentary not just a metaphor for American politics, but a cracking thriller about Hong Kong’s relationship with China. As they say in this flick as the police force tears itself apart and the gunsmoke slowly settles, “The biggest enemy is always on the inside.”

Part of Hong Kong Cinema Now & Beyond

Wednesday July 10, 8:15PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets